I’m Not the Example to Follow

The Bible instructs us that we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that (we) may proclaim the excellencies of him who called (us) out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

Notice it tells us to proclaim His excellencies not extol our alleged virtues! When we talk about God’s perfection we are giving instruction for life, when we talk about our own “perfection” we are opening ourselves and our faith up to ridicule and condemnation.
Too may of us find religion or get “saved” and use that as a license to hold our new lives up as a beacon to others to follow…then wonder why there is so much anger, confusion and rejection when we cannot live up to our faith 24/7.  The light we are to shine is God’s light not ours! We are not to be worshipped and to lead by example, we are to lead others to God through Jesus Christ who by his example provided a firm foundation for faith and a renewed life for all.  We are broken, even the most faithful among us, and therefore we cannot use our vanity and pride wrapped in faith and Bible quotes to shame others, beat them into submission, or give them as an example of Christian perfection.  It is a trap set by Satan to confuse the un-churched and un-saved so that they reject the messenger and refuse to embrace the message.
Do not follow me.  I am a broken Christian.  Follow Jesus Christ, the only perfect being to walk this earth and listen to His words, not mine.  I have a testimony that may inspire and create an initial thirst for Truth, but he has life changing instructions that will lead to eternal life!

Evangelicals and Pope Francis

I think that evangelical Christians, of which I am one, need to be very careful about dismissing or criticizing the Roman Catholic Pope Francis. I have heard people, fellow believers, say Francis is the Anti-Christ mainly for his supposed left-leaning statements. As with all leaders of the faith his words, like anyone else’s should be weighed against the Bible.  Pope Francis is clearly a man of God, although I do not of course adhere to his infallibility as to Church matters and his opinions about earthly matters are obviously his own. Yet he is spreading a Gospel message to many who are not saved, and un-churched, or little-churched and who need God. Many would likely never pay attention to the Word of God without the widespread interest he has generated. He is also clearly a good, humble, decent human being who loves as Christ loves. There are lessons in that for all of us. My only hope is that when he leaves, just as when Billy Graham’s crusades left town, that the millions of people whose lives have been impacted are surely inspired to seek God, read the Bible, and transform their lives through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I hope that true faith in God, not in the Pope or any other man, is the end result.

Have a blessed day!

My Observations on the Kentucky Marriage License Controversy

Social media and traditional media have been lit up with opinions about the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, resulting in her temporary imprisonment for contempt of court.  There are passionate arguments on both sides of the issue.  One thing that cannot be denied is the fact that the clerk, who led a very wayward life until a few years ago, has embraced her faith fervently and without apologies.  She clearly believes that her conversion was a life changing event, and like many who have been transformed after hitting rock bottom (in her case multiple marriages, children out-of-wedlock and other serious personal crises) she is determined to stand firm in her faith against all critics.  She has truly decided to reject this world and embrace the promises of the next.

“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (NIV)

“If you find the godless world is hating you, remember it got its start hating me. If you lived on the world’s terms, the world would love you as one of its own. But since I picked you to live on God’s terms and no longer on the world’s terms, the world is going to hate you.” (MSG)

The one clear message that God has for fervent believers, is that those who truly follow the cross will experience the same burdens of carrying the cross (the message of God) as Christ did: you will be rejected of men, ridiculed, scorned, attacked and perhaps even crucified.  The disciples knew this, preached their message anyway and nearly all met their deaths for their faith, some even literally sharing the same crucifixion as Christ.

Many reject the actions of this woman with Biblical references to forgiveness and judging.  This is common when people know bits and pieces of the Word but have never read the entire Bible cover to cover and considered its entire message to humankind.  I have not heard this woman condemn anyone for their lifestyle choices, nor have I heard her attack anyone personally (although ironically she herself has been personally mocked for her appearance, her lifestyle, and her faith by those purporting to promote equality, inclusion and tolerance).

Likewise I have heard the arguments that her stand is hypocritical because she gave “divorced people” licenses, and “adulterers.” While this is undoubtedly true, she clearly sees a difference in supporting same-sex marriage as an affront to her faith and the antithesis of her commitment to live a life that is pleasing to God. Loving everyone, recognizing all have sinned and fall short, is not the same to her as using her position and authority to “bless” a union between same-sex partners that she believes contradicts Biblical teachings.

“She should separate her faith from her job as a public official and do what is right and follow the law.”  This is a very strong statement that has truth in it (although many rightly see hypocrisy in the failure to hold immigration laws to the same standard).  Can Christians, should Christians hold public offices where their decisions and duties might contradict their faith?  The trouble is that we all take our beliefs with us everywhere we go, to work, to school, when we socialize.  All of us…this includes Christians, atheists, agnostics, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, climate change supporters, climate change deniers, bigots, world government supporters, militarists, doves, feminists, etc.  Is there anyone who makes a decision in a vacuum, without the influence of a personal “belief” in something (atheism is a personal belief in “nothing”).

If I were in her shoes I think I would have resigned my position, after explaining myself publicly.  It is too hard today to serve God and man, when man continually seeks to embrace lifestyles that are counter to Biblical principles.  In truth Christians are not expected to confirm to this world, and so Christians cannot expect to make the world conform to their faith. Non-believers need to come to God on their own. True Christianity is a personal awakening, followed by a personal relationship with God.  It was too personal for the Kentucky clerk to perform her duties and keep her conscience regarding her faith, and it is too personal for her applicants to be forced to accept faith in God by denying earthly government services rightly or wrongly granted in a document with which the government (not God) bestows its own definition of marriage.

I am confident that the Bible, in fact the very existence of humankind, was and is based upon mixed gender relationships (procreation is not possible otherwise and God was clear in the design of our “plumbing” to know what fits where), yet I would not take steps to deny someone who does not share my beliefs government created rights. Instead I would share my testimony about what God has done to change my life in the hope that I would create a spark of curiosity that might lead to a personal revelation and transformation stronger than any condemning act or judgmental preaching.

“Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” Matthew 22:21 (KJV)

Remember that Jesus did not come to condemn the world….the Jews of the time hoped he would take on the pagan Romans and the corrupt politicians but He did not do that.  Instead He came to save the world, by preaching a message of personal salvation obtained through a personal revelation, rebirth and re-focus on God.  Jesus asked us to leave the world behind and follow Him.  Sometimes we spend too much time trying to create heaven on earth when Jesus Himself never tried to do that…it is a lost cause and should not be the goal of Christianity.  The utopia we seek is in heaven and we should be encouraging each other to see that, embrace that, and strive to achieve that…through an intensely personal journey we each must walk alone.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17

The “Do Not Offend Anyone” Movement Has Left Someone Out

We are in  the midst of perhaps the greatest movement in emotional hyper-sensitivity in human history.  In the midst of national disasters, wars and threats of wars, political and social strife, and severe economic conditions reflecting the highest number of people out of the workplace on record, the news and social media’s biggest perceived concern is who insulted whom.

Today on college campuses young people are being schooled on how to avoid “oppressive” language.  Lawsuits have been filed for emotional distress caused by the most ridiculous slights.  Teasing, joking and harmless playacting have, sadly,  resulted in suicides and mass murder.  Displaying a flag, poster, bumper sticker, and even wearing a t-shirt with a slogan on it have resulted in evictions, school suspensions, and organized marches.

Predictably the level of anger and protest against “offensive” statements and behavior often depends on the political issues surrounding them, so that some offenses are acceptable if they support current causes or are conducted by people in “protected classes”-not as that term is known in the law (race, gender, ethnicity etc.) but as has been redefined by popular culture (celebrities, rich and powerful, ardent supporters of current causes, and those in positions of power and authority).

There is however someone noticeably absent from the equation.  The God of the Judeo-Christian faith.  For while we rarely if ever hear of widespread offensive conduct and statements against the God of Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism, we are bombarded daily with images, statements and conduct that not only is offensive to Christ and the Father but rises to the level of mockery, disrespect and blasphemy on a scale that is starting to rocket off the charts.  Perhaps most offensive is the effort by many to redefine Christianity and tell Bible studying, faithful Christians that they don’t know their own faith, they are too conservative in their faith, and are too dogmatic in adhering to their faith….a claim if it were to be made against a supporter of Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism would be roundly condemned.

What is it about Jesus Christ and the God of the Christians and Jews that offends so many?  It’s not the alleged “hypocrisy” of its followers.  There is plenty of hypocrisy in the world, and the Christian faith in particular preaches the prevalence of sin in fallen man and the need for prayer and faith to overcome it daily. Christians don’t claim to BE Christ, they struggle daily to be LIKE him.  I think it is more akin to the fear and loathing most of us have about looking in a mirror.  We never want to see something that may condemn us or bring some defect, physical or otherwise, to our attention and thereby burst our self-love bubble.  For while the Christian faith offers mercy, grace and forgiveness, its teaching requiring “rebirth” and turning your back to this world and your prior sinful life, are bitter pills too hard to swallow.  Its easier to raise meaningless complaints about offensive comments then to accept the Truth about our own lives: we are sinners, living in a sinful world, embracing self-love and ignoring our Creator. Therefore if we can marginalize God, mock true faith, redefine the Word of God, and reinterpret the Bible to keep doing what we are doing, there is no need to face the mirror…we’ve created our own alternate universe. Then if we can stop everyone else from looking at us the wrong way, we will be just peachy.  In truth we will only be at peace when we make our peace with God.

The next time you want to cry and complain about someone looking at you the wrong way, think about how Christ and the Father feel to be exempt from protection by the “Thought Police.” Forgive and forget the slights and unintended insults, people are flawed, and instead examine your own life for thoughts, words and actions that insult the Creator of the Universe.  If we get God right, everything else will fall into place and the division and tension in our world will subside.  Without God there is no peace, no matter how many words are redefined, how many marches take place, and how many sensitivity classes are taught.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Galatians 6:7

Loving, Judging and Sin in the Christian Walk

If you say you’re a Christian and there is no change in your life, you don’t hate your sin but instead embrace it and proclaim it and say God loves me anyway, are you really saved?

We as Christians are frequently being told that “Jesus loves everyone,” which is true. Usually this is being offered to counter opposition to some type of sinful behavior that elicits a strong emotional objection. Christians are told to “love” and not to “judge.” Those called out for sin (in an effort to explain Biblical expectations) exclaim that they “are who they are”, and God “loves them that way.”

Of course we must love all, but are you really a Christian if you don’t become saved, embrace Christ and strive to turn from sin…I get the feeling when people object to being judged sometimes they are saying…”I’m a Christian in my own definition of one, and that’s ok.” It’s not. Being a Christian is hard, it requires denial, rejection of the world, striving to be something else that means carrying a cross daily. Its not easy but when the heart is committed then the reward is great. Yes, God loves us as we are but he EXPECTS us to change and to hate sin, and to come out of this world, not creating false Gods and false religions that suit our lifestyles and make us feel better about our sin. I sin, daily, but I hate my sin and I strive, daily to be greater than this world.

The Truth is that if you say you are a Christian, and yet you have not yet awakened to the painful consequences of your sins, and have therefore not learned to hate them like Christ hates sin because it separates us from Him, then you cannot possibly be saved. This awakening is what reflects the emergence of the Holy Spirit growing within us.  Being saved does not mean you will not sin, but it does mean you have committed yourself to change, and change means just that: your life cannot go on as it has before.

Are you a new person in Christ or simply the same old sinner professing to believe but not willing to accept that real love means sacrifice and change?  Christ made the ultimate sacrifice, dying to this World, as a demonstration of His love for you, can you do less for Him?